Broad Oak: your emotional support animal

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Oxford: the first coffee house

When you're in Oxford, walking down the High towards Magdalen Bridge, you'll pass Queen's College on your left, then the Queen's Lane Coffee House. Stop, and glance to your right at a four-storey building next to the Examination Schools. There's a blue plaque on it, to mark the place where Frank Cooper first sold the famous Oxford Marmalade made by his wife Susan.

But it may have a greater claim to fame, because here, or near here, was England's first recorded coffee house. In his 1691 book about Oxford-educated writers and bishops, Anthony à Wood noted*:

(1650 – p. xix) This yeare Jacob a Jew opened a coffey house at the Angel in the parish of S. Peter in the East, Oxon. and there it was by some, who delighted in noveltie, drank. When he left Oxon. he sold it in Old Southampton buildings in Holborne neare London, and was living there 1671.

(1654 – p. xxiii) Cirques Jobson, a Jew and Jacobite, borne neare Mount-Libanus, sold coffey in Oxon. in an house between Edmund hall and Queen coll. corner.

St Peter's was later deconsecrated and turned into the library of St Edmund Hall (aka "Teddy Hall") Facing it on the south side of the High was a fourteenth-century inn, originally called the Tabard but renamed the Angel when Magdalen College developed it in 1510, and again in the 1660s.The larger left-hand-side part was eventually demolished to build the Examination Schools. The engraving below is from the early nineteenth century, when the licensee was Thomas Gellett.

(Pic source)

One wonders whether the two coffee purveyors were the same person, and whether the enterprise started in a side room of the tavern (which may have been glad of extra revenue during the Puritan Interregnum) and shifted over the road when business took off. If so, then maybe, as the Oxford History site also suggests, the modern Queen's Lane Coffee House is the site of the first dedicated cafe premises in the country.

(Pic source)
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* “ATHENAE OXONIENSES. AN EXACT HISTORY OF ALL THE WRITERS AND BISHOPS WHO HAVE HAD THEIR EDUCATION IN THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD” (1813 edition, Vol. I – with additions by Philip Bliss). Accessed from https://archive.org/details/athenaeoxoniense01wooduoft on 26.12.2013

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1 comment:

James Higham said...

Fascinating slice of history.